After a four-game "Murderer's Row" of SEC competition, nobody has to explain to the Rebel basketballers the importance of the next few weeks. Ole Miss will play five of the next seven games at home.

"What we've got left is a 12-game SEC season and a home game with Houston Baptist," head coach Rob Evans said. "Nobody else opened with the four games (at Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, home with Arkansas) that we did. But we've dealt with it. It's time to go on."

Evans, as is his pattern, won't speculate beyond the next game, but that hasn't stopped the Rebels from looking ahead.

"It feels good to be coming back home and it's good to have those four games out of the way," said freshman Keith Carter, the club's leading scorer and rebounder. "We got better during those four losses and if we keep getting better, we're going to win some league games.

"We know that we need to win at home, especially with five out of seven in Oxford. That's our opportunity to be more of a factor in the SEC."

If the Rebels go 4-8 in the SEC and take Houston Baptist, that will leave them at 10-16 going into the SEC Tournament. That would be an improvement over last year's 8-19 and especially encouraging when seven of the team's major contributors are freshmen and sophomores.

"We've got Florida at home Saturday," Carter said. "It needs to start there. A win would do us a lot of good, that's for sure."

Football: Ole Miss hopes to know the status of the latest NCAA appeal within three weeks. Best case scenario? The Rebels will get back a handful of scholarships to add to the 13 already available this year. Tommy Tuberville's staff is working overtime to nail down a lot of high-profile prepsters and got a huge boost with Wednesday night's verbal commitment of Amory's Joe Gunn (RB, 5-10, 185) the Mississippi Sports Writers Association Player of the Year.

The verbal commitments include QB Jason Vaughan (6-4, 195) of Atlanta, Ga.; QB Robert Reed (6-1, 190) of Northwest Rankin, a transfer from Arkansas; WR Grant Heard (6-2, 175) of Clute, Texas; OL-DL Comone Fisher (6-3, 245) of Houston, Texas; WR-DB Corey Peterson (6-3, 180) of Germantown, Tenn.; DB Bradley Robinson (5-10, 170) of Union City, Tenn.; LB-DB Clay Short (6-0, 205) of Tupelo, a transfer from Itawamba CC; LB-FB Chad Cook (6-1, 215) of Calhoun City and Gunn.

Notes: The Egg Bowl video sold more copies than originally anticipated during the holidays, making it one of the best sellers in school history. ... Evans, along with his assistant coaches, have been especially visible at Northeast Mississippi games this month. Last week, Evans attended the Union County Tournament in Myrtle while Rod Barnes attended the Alcorn County Tournament in Kossuth. ...

Michael Boone, brother of Ole Miss forward Anthony Boone, is expected to make a decision Saturday between Ole Miss and Arkansas in football. The defensive lineman was named Arkansas All-State this week and is listed 6-5, 290. Brother Anthony has no insight in the decision making process. "I really have no idea what he'll do." ... Offensive tackle Boyd Kitchen, a two-year starter who was lost early in the season to a knee injury, confirmed he would receive redshirt status from the NCAA and be listed as a junior for the 1996 season.

Chris Burrows covers Ole Miss athletics for the Daily Journal.

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